DEDHAM, Mass. (AP/WHDH) — A court hearing is scheduled Thursday for former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who pleaded not guilty last month to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception in Massachusetts nearly 50 years ago.

McCarrick, 91, appeared in Dedham District Court on Sept. 3, where a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf for three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14.

The once-powerful American prelate who was expelled from the priesthood for sexual abuse lives in Dittmer, Missouri. He can still face charges because he left the state of Mass., stopping the clock on the statute of limitations.

McCarrick is the only U.S. Catholic cardinal, current or former, ever to be charged with child sex crimes.

Ordained as a priest in New York City in 1958, McCarrick ascended the church ranks despite apparently common knowledge in the U.S. and Vatican leadership that “Uncle Ted,” as he was known, slept with seminarians.

McCarrick became one of the most visible Catholic Church officials in the U.S. and even served as the spokesman for fellow U.S. bishops when they enacted a “zero tolerance” policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002.

His fall began in 2017 when a former altar boy came forward to report the priest had groped him when he was a teenager in New York.

The next year, the Archdiocese of New York announced that McCarrick had been removed from ministry after finding the allegation to be “credible and substantiated,” and two New Jersey dioceses revealed they had settled claims of sexual misconduct against him in the past involving adults.

Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick in 2019 after a Vatican investigation determined he sexually abused minors, as well as adults.

A two-year internal investigation found that three decades of bishops, cardinals and popes downplayed or dismissed reports of sexual misconduct. Correspondence showed they repeatedly rejected the information as rumor and excused it as an “imprudence.”

The findings released last year pinned much of the blame on Pope John Paul II, who appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington, D.C., despite having commissioned an inquiry that confirmed McCarrick slept with seminarians.

In the Massachusetts case, authorities began investigating McCarrick after Garabedian sent a letter to the prosecutor’s office alleging the abuse, according to the court records.

The man told authorities in January that McCarrick was close to his family when he was growing up and that the abuse started when he was young.

The man said that during his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College in June 1974, when he was 16, McCarrick told him his father wanted him to have a talk with the priest because the boy was “being mischievous at home and not attending church.”

They took a walk around campus, the man said, and McCarrick groped him before they went back to the party. The man said McCarrick also sexually assaulted him in a “coat room type closet” after they returned to the reception, authorities wrote in the documents.

The man told investigators that before leaving the room, McCarrick told him to “say three Our Fathers and a Hail Mary or it was one Our Father and three Hail Marys, so God can redeem you of your sins,” according to the report.

He also described other instances of sexual abuse by McCarrick over the years, including when the man was an adult, according to the court records.

Cardinals outside the U.S. have faced prosecution. Cardinal George Pell was convicted of sexual abuse in his native Australia, but his conviction was thrown out. And French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was convicted but later acquitted of charges that he covered up for a pedophile priest.

(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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